Hacktivist Activity a Growing Concern for IT Pros, Survey Shows

A new report reveals the kinds of attacks IT security professionals fear the most. According to the results, there’s a big difference between who’s more likely to attack and which kind of attack poses the greatest threat to a company’s systems.

According to a survey of roughly 1,800 IT professionals by security analyst firm Bit9, approximately 61 per cent of all IT pros believe that Anonymous — a loose, international collective of politically-motivated hackers — and ‘hacktivists’ like them are most likely to attack a system.

For those of you not familiar with the term hacktivist, it simply refers to a hacker who is more likely to overwhelm and disrupt a web site’s traffic than infiltrate its database and steal valuable personal information like banking data.

Anonymous has been in the news a lot lately because of its attacks on political targets like the United Kingdom’s Home Office and Downing Street web sites. The group tends to use distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which overwhelm a page with traffic and cause it to crash.

However, they rarely take their offensive any further than that.

Because attacks by hacktivist groups like Anonymous are so public, many IT pros are worried about the threat they pose. However, IT professionals recognize that the most dangerous types of attacks are usually launched by less politically-motivated hackers who employ specific techniques based on malware infections or spear-phishing schemes to get access to a network and then collect as much valuable information as possible.

The big difference: an Anonymous or hacktivist attack is going to get an IT professional’s company a lot of bad publicity but probably won’t lead to serious financial setbacks. By contrast, an independent hacker looking for client credit card data is going to arouse both media attention and hurt the company’s prospects of landing big clients in the future.

“On the surface, people are most afraid of embarrassing, highly publicized attacks from hacktivist organizations like Anonymous, but they recognize that the more serious threats come from criminal organizations and nation-states,” said Bit9 CTO, Harry Sverdlove.

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